Education in Italy is compulsory from 6 to 16 years of age, and is divided into five stages: kindergarten (scuola dell'infanzia), primary school (scuola primaria or scuola elementare), lower secondary school (scuola secondaria di primo grado or scuola media inferiore), upper secondary school (scuola secondaria di secondo grado or scuola media superiore) and university (università). Education is free in Italy and free education is available to children of all nationalities who are residents in Italy. Italy has both a private and public education system.
1. Scuola Primaria (Primary School)
At age six, children start their formal, compulsory education with the Scuola Primaria also known as Scuola Elementare (Primary School). In order to comply with a European standard for school leaving age, it is possible to enter the Scuola Primaria at any time after the age of five and a half. At the age of eleven they begin their Secondary education.
2. Scuola Secondaria di Primo Grado (First Grade Secondary School)
All children aged between eleven and fourteen must attend the Scuola Secondaria di Primo Grado (First Grade Secondary School). Students must attend at least thirty hours of formal lessons per week, although many schools provide additional activities in the afternoons such as computer studies, music lessons and sports activities. Formal lessons cover a broad range of subjects following a National Curriculum set by the Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione, MPI (Ministry of Public Education). At the end of each term, students receive a school report. At the end of the third year, students sit a written exam in the subjects of Italian, mathematics, science and a foreign language.
3. Scuola Secondaria di Secondo Grado (Second Grade Secondary School)
There are two types of Scuola Secondaria di Secondo Grado in Italy: the Liceo, which is more academic in nature, and an Istituto, which is essentially a vocational school.
- Liceo Classico (Classical High School):
This lasts for five years and prepares the student for university level studies. Latin, Greek and Italian literature form an important part of the curriculum. During the last three years philosophy and history of art are also studied.
- Liceo Scientifico (Scientific High School):
Lasts for five years with an emphasis on physics, chemistry and natural sciences. The student also continues to study Latin and one modern language.
- Liceo Artistico (Fine Arts High School):
Studies can last four to five years and prepare for university studies in painting, sculpture or architecture.
- Istituto Magistrale (Teacher Training School):
Studies last for five years and prepare future primary school teachers. There is also a three year training course for nursery school teachers, but this diploma does not entitle students to enrol at a university.
- Istituto d'Arte (Artistic Schools):
Studies last three years and prepare for work within an artistic field and leading to an arts qualification (diploma di Maestro d'Arte).
- Istituti Tecnici (Technical Institutes):
Studies last five years and prepare for both university studies and for a vocation. There is a majority of students in technical schools that prepare students to work in a technical or administrative capacity in agriculture, industry or commerce.
4. Istituti Professionali (Professional Institutes):
These studies lead, in three or five years, to the achievement of a vocational qualification. In order to receive the Diploma di Scuola Superiore also known as the Diploma di Maturità (Secondary school diploma), students must pass written and oral exams.
This exams covers aspects of their final year at school. Successful students receive various types of Diploma according to the type of school attended. The Diploma di Scuola Superiore is generally recognised as a university entrance qualification, although some universities have additional entrance requirements.
University is available to all students if they have completed five years of secondary school and received an upper secondary school diploma. It is possible for students who have attended vocational schools to attend university. If a student attended a four-year secondary school program, an additional year of schooling is necessary to qualify for university.
Those attending university after completing their Diploma di Scuola Superiore go for three years (four years for teaching qualifications) to achieve their Laurea (Bachelor's Degree).
Vocational education is called the Formazione Professionale. The first part of this lasts for three years, after which they are awarded the Qualifica Professionale. The second part, which lasts for a further two years, leads to the Licenza professionale also known as the Maturità professionale.
It is also worth noting that many of the oldest universities in the world are found in Italy. Among literally scores, the oldest are the University of Bologna that dates from AD 1088, and the University of Padua founded in the year 1222. Italian education is recognized worldwide, and every year thousands of international students come to study in Italy, and mainly through the Erasmus Mundus program.